Returning to Reno from the Playa this year Doug and I were high on life. This year had been the best burn yet and the desert had left us feeling raw to the bone. We had a bunch of food left over that we wanted to give to a homeless person. The first homeless guy we found could not accept any food as he had just had his last supper. He was dying of cancer and was headed to the hospital to be fitted with a feeding tube. Oh yeah, this is reality. Full of pain and suffering and death. Somehow after 10 days at Burning Man we had completely forgotten about the real world.
About 5 years ago I was first introduced to Hydrofoiling with a kite by my good friend Norman McGuire (forum name kiterider) from Montreal, Quebec. He didn’t know me well enough to know what a risk he was taking to let me use his fancy carbon fiber Carafino hydrofoils as I pretty much destroy everything I touch. I first tried it at the Magdalen Islands which is about 15 hours of driving and then a very long 6-hour ferry ride that costs more than most plane tickets I’ve bought. Over the years, I have been to the Magdalen Islands for about 2 weeks in the summer at least 5 times, and each time Norman would show up with a new hydrofoil to try. One year he told me it was time to go strapless. I thought he was nuts, no one is riding these things strapless. After a few hours of flailing around in the water like a Noob, I finally figured it out. I was hooked.
As I laid in bed meditating this morning in the arms of my beautiful partner staring out into the surreal snow covered landscape I was left with this incredible feeling of gratitude.
How did I get here, how could my life possibly be so good?
Was it luck, hard work, did the universe finally reward me for decades of suffering? It’s really hard to tell.
I consider myself a depression survivor. In many ways it’s kind of like being a survivor of something more like cancer, but for people who struggle with depression most of American’s attitude is ‘just get over it’. Not only is this incredibly unfair, it’s also unrealistic to judge others harshly for a condition that they really have little or no control over. I read a statistic online that said 50% of Americans will struggle with mental illness at some point during their life. If so many people suffer from it then why is there so little support and compassion for it?
Most people spend most of their waking hours working. Why?
The carrot that drives most people to get up and go to work everyday is money. Money is great, you can use it to buy things to eat or use or experiences. What is money really?
Money essentially is a system of agreement for barter. It’s very difficult to function under a system of solely trade as the perceived value of the items you are trading are often wildly different. The value of an item can also change wildly from one person to the next. With money we have a system of agreement and everyone agrees that $1 has more or less the same value from one person to the next.
When I first met Thilde Jensen she encouraged me to try TM to help with my obsession and depressive nature. We have been together for 2 years now and committed to each other last summer. Meditation has become a daily habit for both of us, one that I hope we will carry with us to the end of our days. This is not a sales pitch for TM, honestly I feel like it’s a total scam, I am promoting the medical benefits of any meditation not just a single ‘brand’. Although Thilde and I have settled quite comfortably into doing TM, there are a lot of different styles of meditation each with their benefits and drawbacks. This is a story of my personal path.
The TM style of meditation has been around since 1955 and seems to have changed very little throughout the years. The biggest change to the movement has been the price of the training. It has gone from being free to several thousand dollars for private instruction. So then the question becomes, why should I pay $2,500 for something that I can teach myself for free?
Dez, Matt, Jops. It’s hard for me to even type those names without starting to cry. Three people I has so much love for made the same choice, to end their own lives. This article is not about their choices, but about the rift that it leaves in its wake.
What do I say about those that are gone? Why did you leave? Why didn’t you ask for help? What more could I have done. The questions haunt me year after year. As someone who has struggled with severe depression for most of my life, I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed and lost in the world. Somehow I never gave up. Somehow I just put my head down and kept pushing on. For those that chose to give up, it is the emptiness in the ones they love behind that is so moving to me.
For the last 20 years I’ve been sober. Strangely enough I look back and I don’t even know how I got here. My teenage years were a blur of drugs, alcohol and almost constant partying. As my friends from high school stayed on track and got accepted to Ivy League schools I went on a downward spiral into a nihilistic existence. And I loved every minute of it.
I loved eating out of dumpsters and living in abandoned buildings. I loved getting chased by cops night after night. I loved being totally lit out of my gourd and doing the stupid possible things night after night. Whether is was doing donuts in the front yard of a fraternity in a Volvo with no doors or dumpster diving an easy chair from the Starvation Army and keeping it in the bed of a pickup and launching it into the air while driving at high speeds over the jump going down Buffalo St hill. I remember spending all my time exploring rooftops and abandoned buildings and doing whatever I liked. We took trips to NYC and got into riots with the cops when our car got stolen. It was pure insanity.
Many of my friends from that era died from overdoses, suicide or literally drinking themselves to death. One of my closest friends, Mike Spike, dropped dead at 25 in the County Jail. When they did the autopsy they said his arteries were 99% blocked. I never saw him eat or drink anything but alcohol.
Riding my bike everyday and not washing my padded biking shorts (think adult male diaper for bikers) was giving me a serious case of baboon butt. Sitting at the computer for hours a day only compounded the problem. One day when I found myself squirming from the pain but still needing to get work done on the computer I threw up my hands and started looking for something to put my monitor on so I could stand. Little did I know that it would completely change my life. For the better.
Thilde and I decided last winter that we wanted to do something about her crappy wood-stove. Due to her chemical sensitivities we basically had to burn wood with the flue open so all the heat went right up the chimney. Because we didn’t have an outside air intake the air that whooshed up the chimney was usually the air right around the wood-stove that had heated up a little bit. The house was always freezing and we burned through a ton of wood.
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